Peter Suchin: A Critical Contagion in the Quiet of the Night

Tempered, Distended, Folded, Suspended
Peter Suchin, 2003
Acrylic on canvas
138 x 134cm



Paintings, Collages, Writings, Projects, Notes

@ &Model Gallery, Leeds.

The contemporary art gallery &Model, and its somewhat unusual location and set up, provide a perfect backdrop for Peter Suchin’s sometimes rigid and sometimes chaotic works. A mix of paintings and projects are displayed alongside collaborations and extracts from his written work as a polemic art writer for publications such as the Guardian and Frieze; at times these extracts may have a tendency to feel pretentious, but Suchin’s masterly ability to manipulate the written word should be appreciated as a singular artwork in itself. The inclusion of these written works which are scattered in leaflets, notebooks and displayed around the walls, act as a unique way of interpreting his work when read, yet do not feel entirely necessary to the experience of the overall exhibition. The casual viewer is given such a vast amount of written information and interpretations to consider, that at times it feels somewhat overwhelming. These documents are included in the exhibition along with a select choice from Suchin’s own vast library of some 6000 books, drawn plans, video and audio contributions, sketches and somewhat incomprehensible notational scribblings, which provide an intriguing glance into what it takes to structure and create the finished pieces surrounding the viewer.

The paintings too indicate an atmosphere of experimentation and metamorphosis, of an image reshaping. The expansive abstraction causes a rebellion against the flat surface area, the paint pulling and teasing the medium to test its potential. At times the paint borders on playful, and at times it feels unsettlingly chaotic. Something within the images disorientates and confuses, becoming almost unsettling in its sometimes loose and sometimes strict abstraction. However the lines between representation and abstraction become merged, one feeds into the other in a confusing mix of reflection and symbolism. The large sizes of some of the canvases, isolate and alienate the viewer, becoming a playing field for the eye to visually digest and confuse. The smaller ‘pocket paintings’ and unusually shaped works are even more visually perplexing. Attempting to follow the action of the line becomes nearly impossible with the visual layers and merging of colour and variety of strokes. Lines, shapes, blobs of colour and drips combine with the rough texture of the medium creating an almost optical illusion of representation – we are forced to question our eyes and what we think we see in the image. The chaos and confusion align with the titles which give nothing away, no simple name or tell-tale sign, this is an exhibition which will not hold your hand and guide you through it.

The gallery itself is worth visiting. The three level exhibiting space exceeds all my former expectations of a city gallery; it has the feel of the underground cool of Berlin, with all the warmth so well associated with the North of England. The utilization of the upper space and its bare simplicity, the success of the gallery to incorporate the building’s structural rawness and unique features, work in conjunction with the abstraction of Suchin’s exhibition. This is the first time that the gallery, which is relatively new to the Leeds art scene, has devoted the entire space to exhibiting a single artist’s works, and it certainly seems to have paid off.

Helena Wallace


Filed under: Art & Photography